Estrada to Pimentel: Give and forgiveBy Christian V. Esguerra, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Saying he had not given up on his godson, former President Joseph Estrada on Thursday gave disgruntled Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III a lesson or two in humility and forgiveness as the junior lawmaker continued to refuse to run with former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on the same senatorial ticket next year.
Pimentel stopped attacking Zubiri, but still would not run with him.
Estrada, 75, said he had forgiven Zubiri, who once belonged to a group of young House members called Spice Boys that was highly critical of his administration.
“Give and forgive in order to be happy,” Estrada told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone, referring to Pimentel who remained opposed to Zubiri’s being given a slot on the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial ticket.
“I’ve forgiven a lot of people,” Estrada said. “At least, I’m happy. I feel better. You no longer wake up in the morning thinking how you could get even. It’s not good. You can’t move on.”
Pimentel refuses to run with Zubiri because the former Bukidnon representative kept him from serving the first four years of his six-year term in the Senate.
But Estrada pointed out that Zubiri stepped down in August last year when it became apparent that he had benefited from massive cheating in the count of the senatorial votes in Maguindanao during the 2007 elections. The count gave the 12th seat at stake to Zubiri.
“Nauuna yabang eh, akala nila sila lang ang righteous,” Estrada said in reaction to recent attacks both by Pimentel and his father, former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., against the UNA leadership.
“I’m still not giving up,” Estrada said. “But we cannot do anything if he doesn’t (want to stay with us). We have exerted all efforts for him to stay.”
Estrada did not like Pimentel senior’s claim that UNA took in Zubiri because of money.
“Of course not,” Estrada said. “We’re not like that.”
Pimentel senior said in a statement on Wednesday that he conceded that Zubiri had one advantage over his son, money, in UNA’s choice of senatorial candidates.
“Pambihira sya,” Estrada said. “The money is with the Liberal (Party of President Benigno Aquino) because they’re the ones sitting. In our case, we’re the ones looking for money to be given to our senatorial candidates.”
Estrada said he was no stranger to being abandoned by a Pimentel. He recalled that Pimentel senior, the Senate President in 2001, turned his back on him to join Edsa 2, which ousted him from the presidency.
Despite that, Estrada said Pimentel senior sought his help later on when the younger Pimentel filed an election protest against Zubiri in 2007. He said he extended assistance, but declined to elaborate.
“He is my godson that’s why as much as possible, I don’t want him to leave (UNA),” Estrada said.
Pimentel junior told reporters Thursday that he would stop calling Zubiri a cheat. He said he was trying to be fair and giving Zubiri the benefit of the doubt.
He said he would not talk anymore about UNA’s taking in Zubiri as a senatorial candidate, but he still would not run on the same ticket with Zubiri.
No sure plan
Pimentel said he had no sure political plan for 2013. He asked reporters to give him two weeks to “ponder things.”
Asked if he planned to leave UNA and join the Liberal Party, Pimentel replied, “It’s complicated.”
He said, however, that he was trying to save his membership in UNA.
Zubiri was glad that Pimentel would no longer attack him.
“I myself will cease from making any statements on the matter of the selection of the UNA candidates for senator,” Zubiri told the Inquirer. “I hope we can remain civil and friendly to each other.”
But Pimentel did not say that he would stop going after Zubiri for the fraud in the 2007 elections.
He called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to act on his request that she expand the Department of Justice investigation into electoral sabotage cases under the Arroyo administration.